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Exit Clear

Oh the Places You’ll Go: The Journey of a Stolen Tweet

By now it should come as no surprise to you that people on the internet have no problem stealing jokes from others. Some do it just like they’re repeating something funny they heard and want to share it with their friends, while others do it to make money. A lot of money. But how does a simple joke go from one person’s account to everywhere on the internet in such a short amount of time? Let’s follow a single tweet and see what happens on its journey.

This tweet was posted on September 12, 2015:

It had a few shares, but nothing jaw dropping. The next day a slightly bigger account with 12,000 followers posts the exact same joke, except they changed the name at the end to John, instead of Robert. Not my favorite edit, but I digress.

The tweet blows up and ends up getting retweeted over 25,000 times. Even at this point in the tweet stealing process people are already noticing it’s not the original and start calling them out for it:

You’d think that would slow it down a little, but instead the opposite happens. Parody accounts start picking it up and once one of them gets a taste of tweet blood in the water it’s over. The next day the tweet is everywhere and getting shared thousands of times with each parody posting:

That IS something that Tina from Bob’s Burgers says all the time! So true! The people that follow parody accounts love to post the jokes they read as their own. That’s exactly what happened next, as hundreds of little accounts copied and pasted the tweet and posted it everywhere.

At one point there was even a typo where the word “Robert” was replaced with the letter “j” and people still just copied and pasted it with the typo that made no sense whatsoever:

By September 15, three days later, it was posted on thousands of accounts and had flooded the internet. Some shortened it down to just Rob, instead of Robert because they didn’t want to be as formal:

The person that spends his days roleplaying as a cartoon fish on the internet decided to go with David, instead of Robert. Just to shake things up a bit, I suppose

That now causes the tweet to be stolen with a different name at the end, because the people ripping it off can’t even be troubled to come up with an original name:

And of course, big accounts are still stealing (and re-stealing) the semi-original version:

And just like that a simple joke from one individual has now become your friend’s Facebook status, someone’s Tinder bio, and a tweet that thousands of people are now claiming as their own. It’s like the wild west of joke telling out here, so the next time you see one of your jokes getting some attention, get ready because the parody accounts are watching. They’re always watching and waiting. They’re like digital Freddy Krueger. Never sleep again.

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